Saturday, 19 March 2011

Arts Festival Review: O Cambodia


Singer Him Savy (centre) and the Tre So Band are core figures in O Cambodia, a response to the brutality of Pol Pot's regime. Photo / Supplied

via CAAI

By William Dart
Saturday Mar 19, 2011

There was no questioning the sincerity of this project, a response by two Cambodian and two New Zealand composers to the appalling abuses of the Pol Pot regime. Alas, the deeply moving message of O Cambodia fell upon far fewer ears in Thursday's concert than it should have.

The programme, played without the interruption of applause, opened with Chinary Ung's In Memoriam for vocalising piano trio.

It was technically testing for NZTrio, but cellist Ashley Brown was totally at ease with singing and playing simultaneously.

The strenuousness and utter concentration conveyed by the musicians assisted a certain sense of catharsis, with momentum provided by Ung's textural and harmonic ingenuities.

The First Strike composer Him Sophy performed alongside his colleagues. Based on Sophy's own horrific experiences, the piece worked best when restrictive rhythms were swept away by Keo Dorivan's remarkably free-flowing flute solo and the beautifully inflected voice of Him Savy.

Jack Body's O Cambodia gave the evening its title and embraced all manner of subtleties.

Framed by a cleverly deployed Khmer Rouge anthem, in one episode Him Savy's delicate vocals were set against intricately orientalised violin and cello.

Body had harsh governmental stipulations barked over a megaphone at times against chords recalling his earlier composition, Turtle Time. Ever the optimist, the composer saw to it that brutality melted into lyricism as Savy dealt out the sweetest of jungle parables over the chime of piano.

Gillian Whitehead's The River Flows On again grew from the personal - the story of a young Cambodian woman. A folkish passage, played against a projected image of a green rice field, was perhaps overly fulsome, but Whitehead's more open style of composition allowed a spaciousness in which the narrative could unfold.

Finally, a radiant Him Savy emerged from behind music stand and microphones to sing a salute to the healing power of dance.

This was the ultimate message of the evening. Art may not be a cure for the horrors that inspired O Cambodia, but it is certainly a solace and, more importantly, a vehicle for all-important prayers.

Party leader assures friendship with Cambodia

http://english.vovnews.vn/

via CAAI

19/03/2011

(VOV) - Vietnam has always attached great importance to promoting solidarity, traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation with Cambodia for mutual interests, for peace, stability and development in the region and the world as a whole.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong emphasized this at the reception for a delegation of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendly Parliamentarian Group, led by the Group’s chief, Men Xom On, in Hanoi on March 18.

Mr. Trong emphasized that the Vietnamese Party, State and people highly valued support and assistance from the Party, State and people of Cambodia to the past struggle for national independence and unification as well as national construction and defence at present.

Men Xom On, who is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Cambodian People’s Party Central Committee and Permanent Deputy Prime Minister, expressed admiration at the great achievements recorded by Vietnam in the renewal process and national development.

She also thanked Vietnam for its valuable, sincere and effective assistance to Cambodia’s past struggle for national salvation and revival in the past and during the current national development.

The Cambodian head delegate congratulated CPV for its recent successful Congress and Trong for his new position as CPV General Secretary.

World Leaders Send Condolences to Japan, Offer Assistance

http://english.cri.cn/

via CAAI

2011-03-19
Xinhua    
 Web Editor: Zhang

World leaders have sent condolences and are offerring aid to Japan as the country deals with aftershocks and radiation leaks following last week's massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

A magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck offshore Japan on March 11, creating a tsunami that swept over low-lying areas, carrying boats, cars and even buildings with it and destroying nearly everything in its path. More than 6,900 people are confirmed dead so far, and another 10,700 are missing.

The disaster also damaged the seaside Fukushima nuclear power plant, which remains in crisis as workers struggle under dangerous conditions to prevent a meltdown and major radiation leaks.

Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a visit to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Friday afternoon to convey a message of condolences for the victims of last Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Hu told Japanese Ambassador Niwa Uichiro that, on behalf of the Chinese government and people, he extended his sincere sympathies to the Japanese people as well as condolences to the victims of the earthquake.

As China and Japan are neighboring countries separated by a narrow strip of seawater, the Chinese people deeply felt the pain that the Japanese people are suffering, said Hu.

China is helping with the earthquake relief work, and will continue to provide necessary assistance to Japan, Hu told the Japanese ambassador.

"We wish the Japanese people would overcome the difficulties and rebuild their homeland at an early date," Hu said.

Hu also thanked the Japanese government for offering help to the Chinese citizens in the quake-stricken areas under such a difficult situation.

Niwa thanked President Hu for visiting the Japanese Embassy despite his busy working schedule.

President Hu on Monday offered condolences to Japanese Emperor Akihito because of the massive earthquake, Niwa said.

The Chinese government immediately provided relief assistance to Japan and sent out a 15-member rescue team to help its neighbor with relief work,Niwa said, adding that many Chinese citizens have also extended their consolations to the Japanese people.

"The people of Japan have been carrying out quake relief operations with the aid of the international community," the Japanese ambassador said. "The Japanese government will strive to ensure the safety of the Chinese nationals in Japan and spare no efforts to provide assistance and convenience for them."

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a condolence book at the Japanese Embassy in Washington after the powerful earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan last week.

"We feel a great urgency to provide assistance to those who have been displaced from their homes who are suffering enormously at this moment." Obama said.

The American president said he visited the Japanese embassy and signed the condolence book "to communicate how heartbroken the American people are over the tragedy."

"We are doing everything we can to stand by our great friend and ally in Japan in this hour of need," Obama said. "Our deepest sympathies, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been lost."

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Friday extended his condolences to Japanese earthquake victims in a visit to the Japanese embassy in Seoul, his office said.

Lee, who was greeted by Masatoshi Muto, the Japanese ambassador to South Korea, said the situation in Japan was "very regrettable."

"We all offer our condolences to the victims. (We) believe Japan will recover soon, and the Republic of Korea will stand by Japan as the closest neighbor," he wrote in a condolence book, according to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Lee told the Japanese envoy that he was "impressed and touched" by the Japanese people's calm in the face of a major disaster.

The envoy expressed gratitude for the condolences and help extended by South Koreans, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

South Korea has pledged to provide all possible assistance to Japan after the devastating earthquake.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday led his cabinet's ministers to pay deep respect to the victims in Japan.

Hun Sen and his deputies, as well as senior ministers and ministers, were welcomed by Masafumi Kuroki, the Japanese ambassador to Cambodia.

At a ceremony at the Embassy of Japan to Cambodia, the premier laid wreaths and signed a letter expressing deep sympathy to those who have died in Japan.

Serbian President Boris Tadic on Thursday expressed deepest sympathy to the Japanese people, saying that his government was prepared to send aid and has readied a rescue team to go to Japan if requested

Tadic, signing a book of condolences at the Japanese Embassy in Belgrade, said Japan's support to Serbia in times of hardship could not be forgotten.

"This is a moment in which the whole world is united in offering help to Japan, just like Japan has always been ready to help everyone else," Tadic wrote in the book of condolences.

Toshio Tsunozaki, the Japanese ambassador to Serbia, conveyed his gratitude for the offer of assistance in helping his country overcome its misfortunes.

Cambodia Struggles to Stem Domestic Worker Abuse

via CAAI

By Irwin Loy

PHNOM PENH, Mar 19, 2011 (IPS) - Cambodia’s fledgling domestic worker export industry continues to come under scrutiny amid allegations that women have been forcibly detained in privately run training centres.

Local media in this Southeast Asian country reported that one woman died this month at a labour recruitment firm in Phnom Penh, while another trainee broke her legs attempting to escape. The firm has denied any wrongdoing in the woman’s death. But the controversy is a sign that the government’s belated efforts to regulate the rapidly expanding industry have fallen short.

"It’s so sad that the problems are still happening," Moeun Tola, the head of the labour programme at the advocacy group Community Legal Education Centre, told IPS.

The country’s main opposition party is also weighing in on the issue. Parliamentarians with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party visited the training centre in question this month. Member of Parliament Son Chhay said he was alarmed by the tall gates and barbed wire at the facility, which he said gave "the impression of imprisonment".

"Local authorities and police ignored the law that forbids detention against one’s will," Chhay wrote in a letter to Malaysia’s ambassador and provided to IPS and other media this week. "There was no sign that the local authorities even attempted to defend the rights of trainees who are detained against their will. There are tremendous pressures on the young women to comply with the rules of the company."

Abuse claims made by domestic workers began to make waves last July, when stories of women who said they fled training centres hit the local newspapers. In multiple cases, the women reported they had signed up to be trained as domestic workers, but were not permitted to leave the training centres unless they paid large sums of money. Others claimed they escaped from cramped or squalid living conditions.

The headlines shone an uncomfortable spotlight on the industry. The Cambodian Labour Ministry warned recruitment firms to clean up their act and announced new guidelines in August. The guidelines, released ahead of a promise to update the law governing the industry, advised firms not to allow their trainees to fall into debt. The guidelines also contained general statements prohibiting "detention" and "child labour".

The problem, Tola explains, is enforcing the rules. Multiple agencies have been found to be training girls younger than 18 - the minimum age for such work is 21. But inspections of the training centres are rare and there are few consequences for operators found to be flouting the rules, Tola says.

"I think the authorities know these things are happening, but they just close their eyes," he added.

Roughly 30 firms are licensed by the country’s Ministry of Labour to train and send domestic workers abroad. The majority of the women are bound for Malaysia, which is struggling to meet voracious demand for live-in maids after Indonesia put a moratorium on its citizens taking such jobs in Malaysia following publicised cases of abuse.

Malaysia has set its sights on countries like Cambodia to fill demand. Malaysia last year issued almost 25,000 work visas to Cambodian domestic workers, according to the Malaysian Embassy here. That’s well above the roughly 5,300 visas granted across all sectors in 2008.

Cambodia has been just as eager to send its citizens abroad. Job options for many low-income women here are in the country’s chief economic driver - its garment-manufacturing sector. But the minimum wage in garment factories is 61 dollars per month, much less than the 200 to 300 dollars per month women are often promised as domestic workers.

As a result, recruitment firms operating in Cambodia have jumped to take advantage of the market.

Several agencies have been known to recruit women in poor rural areas. They offer cash lump-sum payments and bags of rice to families in order to convince them to sign up their daughters - but the money must be repaid.

Tensions between the trainees and their employers surface when women ask to leave their gated facilities - often the companies will refuse or demand money to allow women to leave, afraid they will run away without paying their debts, according to rights advocates and industry representatives.

The government is expected to issue a new law governing recruitment firms this year - replacing the vague existing regulations, which are more than 15 years old.

An Bunhak, director of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said he has advised the government to prohibit companies from offering large loans to its trainees.

Bunhak says stricter rules will help smooth out problems in the industry.

"We think everyone must follow the regulations. Once everybody understands, it will be okay," Bunhak told IPS. "We want the rules to protect our migrant workers."

While authorities implement the new regulations, however, this month’s case shows that potential domestic workers continue to face problems even before they leave the country.

Heang Sophara signed up to be trained as a domestic worker last year. "I wasn’t earning much money farming. I hoped that I could make more money in Malaysia to support my family, even if I had to be away from them for two years," she told IPS.

But when she started hearing stories of mistreatment, she decided to withdraw her application. She claims the agency demanded that she pay 900 dollars to get out of her contract, even though she never received any loans or underwent training. The case remains unresolved.

"I get more scared when I hear about the problems," Sophara said. "Now I just want to stay home."

Video Installation Gives Voice to Khmer Rouge Cadre (Cambodia news in Khmer)

Cambodian Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy Makes Case in Washington -- (Cambodia news in Khmer)



Part 2

មរណទុក្ខ​ចំពោះ​ជនរងគ្រោះ​ជប៉ុន



អ្នក​កំពង់ស្ពឺ​តវ៉ា​រឿង​ទំនាស់​ដី

វេទិកា​សាធារណៈ​ស្ដី​អំពី​ព្រៃឡង់

Cambodia limits foreign men marrying Cambodian girls

via CAAI

March 18, 2011

Fearing of false marriages and human trafficking, Cambodia has limited rights and access of foreign men who want to marry Cambodian women, a government official said Thursday.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman of Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said the ministry had sent a diplomatic note to foreign embassies and consulates in Cambodia that foreign men are now limited their full access to marrying Cambodian women.

He said the note regulated that any "foreign man who wants to marry Cambodian woman must be under 50 years of age and has an income of at least 2,500 U.S. dollar per month".

He said this new regulation came into effect on March 1, 2011.

Koy Kuong said with the new regulation enforced, Cambodian women will not be traded as slaves, false marriages or human trafficking.

He said foreign men who come to their ages of 50 will sooner or later get retired and will earn less money to secure a decent life with new wives.

However, this regulation is criticized by local nongovernmental organizations that deal with human rights, saying it is a discriminatory act against women.

Kek Galabru, president of Licadho, said the government should instead provide better education and improve women status.

She said women shall enjoy full rights as men to choose their love ones regardless their ages.

Source: Xinhua

Accused child molester to be deported to Cambodia

via CAAI

By The Nation
Published on March 19, 2011

Suspected British paedophile David John Fletcher is to be extradited to Cambodian, where he allegedly molested underage girls, after the Criminal Court yesterday approved a request by public prosecutors to send him to stand trial in the neighbouring country.

The judges dismissed claims by Fletcher, 65, that he was wrongly indicted by Cambodian authorities because of his conflicts over moneylaundering with influential figures there, saying that they were baseless. The court ruled that his extradition qualified under ThaiCambodia pacts.

Fletcher was arrested last year in Thailand after fleeing from Cambodia, where he was accused of sexual molestation and rapes of many girls under 15 years of age. He has since been in court custody pending extradition, whose date is not yet scheduled.

Research and Markets: Cambodians and their Doctors: A Medical Anthropology of Colonial and Postcolonial Cambodia

http://www.businesswire.com/

via CAAI

March 18, 2011

DUBLIN--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/e831b2/cambodians_and_the) has announced the addition of the "Cambodians and their Doctors: A Medical Anthropology of Colonial and Postcolonial Cambodia" report to their offering.

“Cambodians and their Doctors: A Medical Anthropology of Colonial and Postcolonial Cambodia”
.This is an anthropological study of doctors and patients in Cambodia. These two categories include the actors within the separate but coexisting medical traditions in Cambodia - the biomedical and the indigenous. Doctors in the biomedical tradition generally seek to cure the physical body, while indigenous medical practitioners seek to heal the social person. Ideally, both strategies for regaining health should be complementary, but medical doctors and indigenous healers have rarely collaborated. This book traces the social, historical, and political circumstances under which these two medical traditions have evolved and the opportunities and constraints which Cambodians have faced and still face when seeking healthcare.

Our study spans the colonial introduction of biomedicine into Cambodia in the late nineteenth century to the present. By anthropological standards this is a rather longue durée, also given that our own observations of Cambodian society go back a mere 13 years, and that most of our informants' recollections hardly extend further than the 1960s. Our aim, however, is to trace the articulation of the two medical traditions from the beginning of their coexistence and thereby offer a colonial and postcolonial anthropology as well as a political economy of medicality.

Among the Asian medical systems, Ayurvedic, Unani, and Chinese medicine would represent the great medical traditions (Leslie 1976), comparable in many respects to the great, though much less ancient, European tradition of biomedicine. The notion of a medical system includes both theory and practice: theory as a more or less consistent body of medical cosmological ideas - a world view - and practice as an associated set of therapeutic techniques and technologies. Medical systems are by no means static, and changes within them occur to varying degrees and at a varying pace as a matter of course, precipitated, for instance, by globalization and indigenization. In biomedicine changes in technique and technology are virtually built into the system through the notion of continual scientific and technological progress, whereas changes in world view are considerably less perceptible and rather longue dure.

On the Thai-Cambodian Border, a Test for Both Asean and Indonesia


via CAAI

Laura Jepson | March 18, 2011

While Asean has been around only since 1967, some of the disputes that it now confronts have been around a great deal longer. The recent violent clashes on the Thai-Cambodian border are a case in point. The region’s Preah Vihear temple has changed hands time and again over hundreds of years, making it an ongoing sore spot for the two countries.

The debate should have been settled when the International Court of Justice granted Cambodia sovereignty over Preah Vihear in 1962, but now that the issue has festered open again, the developments raise a number of questions for both Asean and Indonesia.

Will the conflict threaten the validity of Asean through the blatant disregard for the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, or will Asean leadership instead assert itself and show it to be capable of effectively mediating its members? The international community is watching to see whether Asean is capable of solving its problems independently, and whether Indonesia, as the association’s current chair, can help steer it through the process.

Indonesia moved quickly to help stem the violence that broke out early last month, with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa visiting both countries inside of a week to extend a hand in mediation. Initially, Cambodia brought the matter to the UN Security Council for resolution despite calls from Thailand to continue negotiating bilaterally. The council passed the mantle of mediating negotiations to Asean, putting the issue back in Indonesia’s hands.

Marty took strong first steps to “own” the dispute and to legitimize Asean’s position in its resolution by swiftly responding to the crisis and presenting his office as a tool for mediation. But ensuring that Asean comes out of this stronger rather than weaker will be no simple matter. Asean has historically struggled with the ability to influence the actions of its members. Sovereignty and non-interference have been the order of the day for the four decades of its existence.

But in this case the non-adherence to Asean treaties provides a clear-cut justification for intervention. The TAC demands that member states commit themselves to the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the Asean Charter stipulates that member states must “endeavor” to “peacefully” resolve all disputes through “dialogue, consultation, and negotiation.”

The body’s reaction to the dispute will also set a new precedent. While regional intervention has occurred previously — for example when Thai troops were sent in to East Timor and Aceh — these were not under the auspices of Asean. The current case thus would be the first in which Asean countries agree to use Asean mechanisms to resolve a bilateral dispute between members.

Additionally, if negotiations are successful, this will be an important step toward increasing group cohesion and its own ability to regulate internally. This is essential if the association is to reach its 2015 goal for creating the full architecture of an enhanced Asean Community, especially those aspects pertaining to security. It may also create greater likelihood for the use of other Asean dispute resolution mechanisms, such as the High Council (as provided for in the TAC) or the use of conciliation, mediation and arbitration (as provided for in the charter).

But doubts in the efficacy of Asean were reflected in Cambodia’s decision to seek redress to the UN first, rather than Asean. Furthermore, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has voiced occasional doubts as to Asean’s capacity in this area. As for Thailand, from the beginning its officials have reiterated their preference for bilateral talks. They have since said that they now welcome Asean “support,” but they have not agreed to have Indonesia “referee” meetings (as requested by Cambodia), but rather just to observe them — not exactly an affirmation of resounding confidence.

Indonesia faces numerous challenges in establishing its role. There is the initial challenge of deciding where the country’s observers will be stationed, as Thailand does not want them just on the disputed territory but rather split between the Cambodian and Thai sides.

And as with the original concept of peacekeepers they will also be unarmed, which means they can only report on breaches of the cease-fire. But peacekeeping of this kind has not always been able to prevent further conflict. In fact, new conflicts break out in over half of the cases where peacekeepers have been deployed. Two of the first missions of this kind, in the Palestinian Territories in 1948 and Kashmir in 1949, remain volatile and frequently explode into violence.

As a result, peacekeeping has changed radically in recent years and modern-day peacekeepers are often armed in order to enforce, rather than just observe, the peace. But without arms, peacekeepers on the Thai-Cambodian border will not be able to force either side to do anything. This is the key difference in the Asean context. Their presence is rather meant to be a deterrent, or as potential whistle blowers, such that the Asean leadership can make the subsequent dialogue more open and more likely to succeed.

It should be noted though that the early steps taken by Marty have been crucial to legitimizing Asean and Indonesia’s role at the center of negotiations. Indonesia has long been heralded as the natural leader of Asean, and its rhetoric and actions since ascending to the chair have justified this. If Indonesia hopes to be seen as an important player in regional politics, and hopes to encourage a more internationally engaged role for Asean, the Cambodia-Thailand dispute will be a litmus test of its ability to guide the organization toward a stronger union.

The focus should thus now shift to what Indonesia should do to make this happen. The short-term concern for Indonesia must be the solving of the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand in a sustainable way. To do this, Cambodia and Thailand will need to ensure both that observers are able to precisely and fairly track developments, and that negotiations come to successful fruition for both sides.

In the long run, Indonesia must also ensure that Asean is seen as an essential partner in this engagement, while using existing mechanisms to the full, and even creating new ones as needed, to ensure that other regional confrontations land on Asean’s doorstep first.


Laura Jepson is a program officer for policy development at Strategic Asia, a Jakarta-based consultancy promoting cooperation among Asian nations.

Vietnamese Opposition Could Sway Lao Hydropower Plans

Manilene Ek  
Friday, 18 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: Reuters
A Western construction worker surveys ongoing work to build a power plant for the Nam Theun 2 dam, south of Vientiane, Laos, (file photo).

Vietnamese officials are criticizing the Lao government’s controversial plan to build a dam on the Mekong River. Analysts say opposition from Vietnam and other lower Mekong countries could force Laos to scale back its hydropower ambitions.

Vietnamese officials are publicly opposing a plan by neighboring Laos to build a hydropower dam on the Mekong River.

The $3.5 billion Xayaburi hydropower dam is the first of 12 dams planned for the lower Mekong. A Thai developer would build the dam, and Thailand would buy most of the 1,260 megawatts of electricity the dam would generate.

Lao officials say the proposed Mekong dams would cut poverty and bolster their land-locked country’s economy.

Criticism

But Vietnamese officials say the dam would jeopardize water supplies and threaten fishing on the river’s downstream reaches. Their recent comments echoed warnings by environmentalists that the Mekong dams would damage the environment and threaten the livelihoods of people who live near the river.

Analysts say political pressure from Vietnam and its lower Mekong neighbors – Thailand and Cambodia – could force Laos to delay or modify its plans to harness the Mekong’s flow.

Philip Hirsch, a professor of human ecology at the University of Sydney, told VOA that of the lower Mekong countries, Vietnam has so far been most publicly critical of Laos’ hydropower ambitions.

"The interesting question, which I think is very difficult for anyone to answer, is how these two countries, Vietnam and Laos – which are so close – are going to extricate themselves from what at the moment seem to be diametrically opposite positions on the Xayabouri dam," Hirsch said.

Vietnam and Laos are both one-party states and Hirsch says Vietnam typically influences Lao policy "behind closed doors." But Hirsch says recent criticism of the Xayabouri proposal by high-ranking Vietnamese officials has been "very public."

All four lower Mekong countries will be closely watching a recommendation on the dam expected this month from the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission, an advisory body formed in 1995 to promote sustainable development along the 4,900-kilometer Mekong system.

Influence

But Hirsch points out that the MRC has no power to force Laos to abandon its plans for the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams.

"The MRC is not a regulatory institution,” Hirsch added. “It’s not a strong agency in that way, it’s one which has always worked on the basis of trying to achieve consensus, and if we’re looking for regulation from the MRC, I think we’re looking in the wrong direction."

Hirsch says Thailand has vowed to stay neutral in MRC negotiations, which puts the onus on Vietnamese and Cambodian officials to address the Xayabouri dam proposal in discussions with their Lao counterparts.

Trinh Le Nguyen is executive director of the Vietnamese NGO PanNature. He tells VOA that although Laos has final say over the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams, Vietnam may pressure Laos by threatening to not invest in future Mekong hydropower projects.

"Vietnam can decide not to invest or buy anything from [Laos],” Trinh Le Nguyen said. “It’s one of the ways they can have some power."

In October, an independent study commissioned by the MRC recommended that lower Mekong countries delay decisions on hydropower projects for 10 years, warning that Mekong hydropower dams would exacerbate food insecurity and cause "serious and irreversible" environmental effects.

China, which borders northern Laos, already operates four dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

After Japan Quake, Friends Search for Survivor

Bun Tharum, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 18 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo : AP
Local residents wait for a ship to travel to a nearby island from the devastated city of Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, just one week after a massive earthquake and resulting tsunami, March 18, 2011.

“A couple of days I can go to Sendai. Unfortunately, this is not holding the mood to travel. Anyway, hope this trip will be harvested [fruitful] in Sendai.”

When an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, Cambodian students in Japan found themselves in a frightening situation. But through social media and other communications, most students were able to check on each other during and after the quake.

When the shaking ended, all of the students were accounted for. Except one. Tea Seang Houng. The search for Tea Seang Huong by her friends demonstrates the important role social media and the Internet have come to play for Cambodians around the world.

Tea Seang Houng, who had been in Japan since March 2010 and was studying to be a translator, left Tokyo on March 9 to visit her host family on the northeast of the island of Honshu. Before she left, on March 7, she updated her Facebook profile, telling 309 friends, in Chinese (according to Google translator): “A couple of days I can go to Sendai. Unfortunately, this is not holding the mood to travel. Anyway, hope this trip will be harvested [fruitful] in Sendai.”

On March 8, a friend replied, in Japanese, “You be careful!”

At 2:46 pm on the afternoon of March 11, a massive earthquake began off the northeast coast of Honshu—130 kilometers east of Sendai city, which sits on the eastern edge of the Eurasian Plate, whose geological collision into the Pacific Plate triggered the earthquake.

The quake, a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale, triggered a tsunami, a massive wall of water 10 meters high that swept across Honshu’s northeastern coast. The tsunami devastated the entire region, including Sendai, leaving 1.15 million households and businesses in and around the city of 500,000 without power or water, according to the city government. The earthquake shook buildings across the island, including in Tokyo.

More than 200 Cambodian students in Japan experienced the quake, and Facebook became a main source of information for them.

“Huge earthquake!!” Chea Poleng, vice president of the Cambodian Student Association in Japan, typed on her iPhone just after the earthquake. “First experience escape from earthquake >< so scare!!” Later that evening, the 29-year-old economics student at Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University wrote: “almost no breath when watching the confusing everywhere in japan! Pls keep alert and announce urself safe all friends here!”

Also that night, a Cambodian student in Hong Kong, Sreng Nearirath, reported on Facebook: “one of Cambodian students named Ms. Tea Seng Huong was spending her time at the host family in the hardest-hit Sendai and now could not be contacted according the email of the Cambodian Student Association in Japan (CSAJ) :(“

By then, news of the disaster was well known worldwide. Footage of the tsunami as it swept houses, cars and debris inland was broadcast on major news outlets. Many worried than Tea Seng Huong had perished in the disaster.

She did not. She survived.

Tea Seang Huong, who is 27 years old, was in a grocery store parking lot when the earthquake hit. She had been shopping in an underground supermarket with friends but had been unable to find what she was looking for. They were on their way to another store when the earth began to shake.

“The shake was like we’re running over a big hole,” she told VOA Khmer later. “My Japanese friend told me to open the car doors, but stay still. In front of me, I saw a vehicle shaking. After half an hour of the quake, aftershocks continued slightly, and it was showering, so we got out of the car. I saw a billboard had fallen on the ground, and the ground was torn apart. I therefore felt terribly shocked.”

“When I was in the parking lot, I sent a text message via mobile phone to one of my friends in Tokyo,” she said in a phone interview.

That single text message was passed on through a network of friends and ultimately on through a Facebook network.

In Hong Kong the following day, Nearirath Sreng posted on Facebook: “We have received confirmed information from Seang Houng's family that she is safe now..Thanks God.”

Since Sendai was hardly hit, she may not be have access to internet or mobile phone... and she may not remember our number except her family's number in Cambodia. As we have known Japanese mobile number are very long and hard to remember.”

Modern communications had helped reassure Tea Seng Huong’s friends and family she was all right.

By then, March 12, Japan was still struggling to come to grips with the scale of the disaster. In the days to come, rescue efforts would find few survivors and the death toll would reach in the thousands. Today, international attention is on a series of nuclear reactors whose cooling systems were damaged in natural disaster.

Tea Seang Huong is safe for now, though Japan is still struggling to recover.

On March 15, just after 1 pm, she was back on Facebook. “Dear friends,” she wrote, in English this time. “I've just arrived Tokyo n my home. Thank you very much for your warm wishes n also very sorry to let you all worrying about me. it was a hard experience for me, but m very happy n feel luck to b safe. contact u again later.”


US Maintains Ban on Cambodian Adoptions

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 18 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
A young orphaned Cambodian infant girl infected with the HIV virus sits on a mat in the Phnom Penh Nutrition Center.

“The United States has not set a date for resumption of inter-country adoption with Cambodia.”

A US envoy for children’s issues declined to lift a ban on US adoptions from Cambodia Friday, despite the 2009 passage of an adoption law, officials said.

The US banned adoptions from Cambodia in 2001, after allegations that mothers were being paid to give up their children to adoption agencies.

Susan Jacobs, the US Ambassador for Children’s Issues, told Cambodian officials the country had made improvements in children’s protection.

But after her two-day fact-finding mission, the US Embassy said in a statement, “The United States has not set a date for resumption of inter-country adoption with Cambodia.”

Cambodian officials say they expect to begin initiating a 2009 law in April this year to bring the country in line with international standards.

The law includes age requirement for prospective parents, between 30 to 45, and an age limit on a child of 18 years. It also includes requirements the adoptive parent is not a criminal and can care for the adopted.

“We aim to prevent human trafficking and child smuggling,” said Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The law would ensure a child lives with its adopted family, he said, “with proper living, dignity and happiness.”

Hun Sen Orders Investigation of Labor Recruiters

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 18 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Hun Sen ordered the Anti-Corruption Unit to look into the growing sector of recruitment, following death of Seung Sina earlier this month at the T&P company’s center in Phnom Penh.

"Hun Sen had ordered the ACU, headed by Om Yentieng, to investigate the social labor offices of companies in Phnom Penh and the provinces “following different articles in the press and radio reporting.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered a government investigation into the business practices of labor recruiters, after a worker died in the facility en route to work in Malaysia, a government spokesman said.

Hun Sen ordered the Anti-Corruption Unit to look into the growing sector of recruitment, following death of Seung Sina earlier this month at the T&P company’s center in Phnom Penh.

T&P officials have denied wrongdoing in the past, but the death followed reports of another woman’s reported escape from the center, during which she said she jumped a fence and broke bones in her legs.

Those two incidents and another death at a separate company earlier this year have underscored the weak system of regulation surrounding the aggressive recruitment of exported labor, especially as more young Cambodian women have sought work as maids in Malaysia.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith posted on his Facebook page on Friday a note saying Hun Sen had ordered the ACU, headed by Om Yentieng, to investigate the social labor offices of companies in Phnom Penh and the provinces “following different articles in the press and radio reporting.”

ACU officials could not be reached for comment on Friday. Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that police have investigated the death at T&P and have filed with the court already.

Meanwhile, at six rights groups and development organizations met in Phnom Penh this week to consider the practice of aggressive recruitment and plan report to the ministries of Labor and Interior.

Recruitment firms have sprung up across the country in the past year, convincing young women to take jobs as domestic help in Malaysia and often offering families money and goods up front.

This has made some companies loathe to release their new recruits, even if the women have changed their minds.

Imports, exports rise as free trade widens

A motorcyclist and passenger travel past shipping containers stacked at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port in January, as trade levels increased by nearly 60 percent. Bloomberg

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Friday, 18 March 2011 15:00 May Kunmakara

TOTAL exports surged nearly 60 percent in January, compared with the same period of 2010, according to figures released yesterday.

Officials said the increase was a result of last year’s free-trade agreements with a number of large East Asian countries.

Exports from the Kingdom grew by 59.6 percent for the month to US$418.4 million from $262.1 million for January of last year, according to the Commerce Ministry

Cambodia’s total imports also dramatically increased, climbing more than 127 percent in January to $639.5 million from $281.4 million in the same period last year.

ASEAN’s free trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan came into effect in early 2010 and require members to reduce the vast majority of trade tariffs to zero. The four youngest members of ASEAN – Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar – can bring down the rates gradually and have until 2015 to meet the full requirements.

“Now, we see that the agreement is going smoothly – these are our new markets,” Chan Nora, secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry told The Post yesterday.

“Significantly, we have tried boosting local exports by urging concerned authorities to facilitate exporting,” he added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, during the opening of this year’s Cambodia Outlook conference last Wednesday, called for the country to diversify its export destinations in Asia as regional integration increases, saying that United States and European Union markets could remain below their previous levels for some time.

“Asian markets could offer more prospects for export and income growth for Cambodia,” the Premier said.

“Thus, we have to diversify Cambodia’s economic structure to focus not only on serving the US and EU markets, but also the Asian market.”

The Commerce Ministry’s figure also showed that Cambodia’s garment and textile exports in January jumped 59.2 percent to $360.9 million from $226.7 million in January 2010.

Agricultural exports – such as rice, rubber, cassava and corn – soared 145.6 percent year-over-year. Van Sou Ieng, chairman of Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia, recognised the improvement of garment exports this year and said he expected they would keep on growing.

“This year, the sector is showing positive signs. I do believe that our garment exports will rise more than 20 percent” as a result of Cambodia’s recovering economy, he said.

Chan Nora said that he had seen a rise in agricultural exports earlier this year as the Kingdom shipped “thousands of tonnes of milled and unmilled rice” during the harvest season.

The total amount of imports into Cambodia, also rose dramatically. “The local demand is increasing because of the growth of the economy. We especially need garment raw materials to supply production,” said Chan Nora.

Tribunal civil parties meet for training

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Friday, 18 March 2011 15:02Kim Yuthana

More than 100 people who will serve as civil party representatives in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s upcoming case gathered in Phnom Penh yesterday to understand the role they will play when the case heads to trial.

The meeting was organised by local rights group Adhoc, which is providing training and guidance to the representatives ahead of the tribunal’s second case, due to begin within the next four months. Adhoc assisted 1,058 of the 2,123 civil parties who have been admitted so far to participate in the case.

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This is a mechanism to ensure the effectiveness of the plaintiffs.

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The 122 representatives receiving training this week will serve as liaisons over the course of the trial to other admitted civil parties, not all of whom will be able to appear in court, Adhoc project coordinator Latt Ky said. They were elected by other civil parties during meetings last year.

“This is a mechanism to ensure the effectiveness of the plaintiffs in participating in the process of receiving justice from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia,” Latt Ky said, using the tribunal’s formal moniker.

Just 90 civil parties participated for the duration of the tribunal’s first case, that of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav. The scope of the second case is vastly wider, however, covering crimes sites all over the country.

To account for the correspondingly larger number of civil parties admitted, the court adopted rule changes last year intended to “streamline” civil party participation that will limit the number who can appear in court.

Among these changes was the establishment of “lead” civil party lawyers who will direct courtroom representation and overall strategy for the admitted parties.

International co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said at the meeting yesterday that his office was working to expedite proceedings at the tribunal to ensure that the ageing accused live to see the end of their trial, though he noted that the court’s lack of funding was a concern.

United Nations court spokesman Lars Olsen said last month that the tribunal was short roughly $20 million in funding for this year.

Courtroom quarrel

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Friday, 18 March 2011 15:02Mom Kunthear

The director of court clerks in Mondulkiri provincial court filed a complaint on Tuesday against a judge, accusing him of threatening and insulting him and demanding US$1,000 in compensation.

Krang Song, director of Mondulkiri provincial court clerks, said yesterday he filed the complaint to three institutions against the judge, who he said looked down on him and insulted him in the courtroom.

“The judge, Meng Tony, pointed at me and insulted me without respect, telling me that I am an old person and accusing me of being the kind of person who is dishonest with their work.”

Mondulkiri provincial prosecutor, Im Sophan, said yesterday that he will take measures through court processes to come to a resolution, before declining to comment further.

Two charged in karaoke singer’s rape

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Friday, 18 March 2011 15:02Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Two men were charged in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, over the rape of a 19-year old karaoke singer in Meanchey district’s Prek Pra commune in Phnom Penh last year.

Presiding Judge Suos Sam Ath said that Ung Dara, 43, was charged with the rape of the singer in a karaoke parlour in Or Anduong village in October, and that Chan Dararith, 35, was charged as his accomplice.

“Ung Dara forcibly raped the victim in a karaoke room while singing songs with her, and Chan Dararith helped him by holding her legs and spreading them apart in order to facilitate Ung Dara’s successful rape,”
he said.

He added that the court would announce verdicts for the two suspects on March 28.

Heang Sopheakra said that on the morning of October 30, Ung Dara, Chan Dararith and four other people came to sing karaoke and the victim sat with the two men in their room.

“While I was singing Karaoke with them in the room, Ung Dara embraced me and touched my breasts,” she said in court testimony yesterday.

“He forcibly raped me without using a condom, and during the rape Chan Dararith held both of my legs for him. I tried to defend myself from the rape but I could not,” she said, adding that the two suspects escaped after the incident occurred.

Mam Pheasa, Ung Dara’s lawyer, refuted the charges against his client in court yesterday.

“It is a normal thing that girls who work at karaoke shops could be hugged and I accept that my client could have committed this,” he said.

“But I deny that he raped her and I ask the court to drop the charges against him.”

Retired teachers missing pensions

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
CITA President Rong Chhun speaks during an event commemorating International Women’s Day earlier this month in Phnom Penh.

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Friday, 18 March 2011 15:02Phak Seangly

The Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association yesterday released a letter written by three retired teachers from Prey Veng province’s Ba Phnom district, asking the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation to intervene after they did not receive their retirement pensions.

The letter, dated February 28, states that since retiring last year, the teachers have not received a monthly pension they were entitled to for 14 months after retirement.

Chea Moeun, one of the teachers who penned the letter, said yesterday that he retired on January 1 last year and had never received his pension.

“Without the salary, my standard of living is difficult because I just do small farming,” said Chea Moeun.

CITA president Rong Chhun said that the Social Affairs Ministry does not usually give the pensions on time.

“There are many retired teachers who have not gotten their pension,” said Rong Chhun.

“It is involved with corruption because the relevant officials benefit from the retirement pension, like lending it to get interest.”

Him Sophal, director of the provincial education department, said that after receiving their last salary from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, retired teachers come under the Social Affairs Ministry.
“It takes time to transfer documents from official teachers to retired officials, so the retirement pension is late,” said Him Sophal.

He added that about 200 state teachers went into retirement each year.

An official from the Social Affairs Ministry who declined to be named, said that sometimes there is “no money package” for the newly retired teachers because they are not listed under prakas, or edicts.
“The money package is made only once a year, but do not worry, the retirement pension is not lost,” he said.

“Some retired teachers do not get their pension for 20 months.”

Thon Tha, director of the provincial social affairs department, said that teachers who retired last year had not gotten the pension yet because his department had not received official edict authorising payment.

Mut Khev, secretary of state at the Social Affairs Ministry in charge of retirement pensions for civil officials, said that retired officials who had not received the pension should contact him or file a complaint to his ministry.

Overloaded trucks seized in the capital

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Friday, 18 March 2011 15:02Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

At least 25 trucks carrying shipping containers were detained yesterday with overloaded cargo in Phnom Penh, after Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to authorities on Wednesday to take strict action against overloaded vehicles to prevent damage to municipal roads.

“These big trucks have overloaded and transported heavy goods on roads in Phnom Penh,” said Heng Chantheary, chief of Phnom Penh traffic police.

“They have damaged roads and created many problems as well as traffic jams in the city,” Heng Chantheary said, adding that of the 25 trucks detained, 10 were stopped in Russey Keo district and the remaining 15 were detained at Meanchey district.

He added that the trucks were now being detained by traffic police in the two districts for examination of their documentation and technical inspections under the supervision of experts from the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

The banning of overweight vehicles and trucks transporting shipping containers on the streets of Phnom Penh is a difficult task, Heng Chantheary said, and one that required cooperation from district police and related authorities.

Prime Minister Hun Sen called on police, military police and court officials on Wednesday to take drastic action against transportation companies that violate municipal traffic laws.

He added that trucks carrying shipping containers are a major concern for the city, because they have caused traffic accidents, traffic jams and damage to Cambodia’s infrastructure.

The premier also appealed to provincial governors to stop illegal road checkpoints and ensure that roads are repaired and maintained.

Funcinpec 3G fracas widens

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Deputy Prime Minister and Funcinpec secretary general Nhek Bun Chhay in 2009.

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Friday, 18 March 2011 09:57Meas Sokchea and James O’Toole

Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay has acknowledged that one of his advisers served as a paid representative of a firm that transferred a 3G telecommunications license to a Hong Kong-based company from which Nhek Bun Chhay has been accused of accepting bribes.

Former Funcinpec member Bun Tha, publisher of the Khmer Amatak newspaper, filed a complaint against Nhek Bun Chhay with the Anticorruption Unit this week accusing the deputy prime minister and Funcinpec secretary general of agreeing to use his political influence to aid an unnamed Chinese telecommunications company working with the Hong Kong-based firm Speedy Best Technology.

The complaint is based on documents circulated earlier this year including an alleged contract dated June 7, 2008, stating that Nhek Bun Chhay and another company, Kahua Industry Investment Co Ltd, had obtained a 3G telecommunications license from the government that they agreed to transfer to Speedy Best.

Speedy Best was apparently created as a joint venture between Funcinpec and the unnamed Chinese company, according to the contract. The contract states that Nhek Bun Chhay agreed to use his “influence and power as General Secretary of Funcinpec Party and deputy prime minister” to aid the Chinese company.

Nhek Bun Chhay has rejected the contract as a forgery but has admitted serving as a “witness” to a transaction in which Speedy Best paid Kahua US$5.8 million for an 80 percent share of a 3G license.

Some $2.5 million of this payment was then diverted to Nhek Bun Chhay as a “loan”, the Funcinpec secretary general said, adding that his adviser, Ith Sarik, had received $500,000 for serving as a Kahua representative in Cambodia.

“I borrowed $2.5 million through my advisers’ bank accounts. The first is Mr Hong Long, who received $1.5 million, and the second is Mr. Ith Sarik, who received $1 million,” Nhek Bun Chhay said. “From my adviser Ith Sarik I only received $500,000, because he was paid $500,000 for being a representative of Kahua in Cambodia.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, apparently from Guangzhou, China, Kahua chairman Chan Bei Chuan said Nhek Bun Chhay ultimately “received in cash from Mr. Hong Long only US$1,000,000.00 and from Mr. Ith Sarik only $500,000.00”.

“The transferring of 80% shares and the cost of US$5,835,600.00 is only the business between Kahua Industry Investment Co Ltd and the Speedy Best Technology Co Ltd under the witness of Gen. Nhek Bun Chhay,” Chan said.

“The Kahua Industry Investment Co Ltd agreed to credit to Gen. Nhek Bun Chhay … a loan of the amount of US$2,500,000.00.”

An additional contract document obtained by The Post, dated August 12, 2008 and signed by Chan and Nhek Bun Chhay, states that the $2.5 million loan “shall be reduced … from the 5% profit given to Mr.
Nhek Bun Chhay in 3G telephone company Kahau [sic] Industry Investment Co Ltd.”

Joe Heng, an associate partner at the Malaysia-based accounting firm Baker Tilly Monteiro Heng, whose business card is copied on one of the alleged receipt documents, said this week that he had never heard of any of the parties in the transaction and had not been involved.

Nhek Bun Chhay said yesterday that Speedy Best’s 3G license had since been revoked by the government, and that Kahua had “another business” in Cambodia but was no longer working in the telecoms sector. Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said he was travelling and could not comment, as did the ministry’s director general, Mao Chakrya.

Kahua and Speedy Best representatives could not be reached for comment.

Nhek Bun Chhay said yesterday that he had used the loan he received to renovate Funcinpec headquarters in Phnom Penh. Funcinpec president Keo Puth Reaksmey said, however, that he was unaware of the transaction.

“So far, the Funcinpec Party has never borrowed money from anyone to resolve a problem,” he said.

Simon Perkins, CEO of mobile operator Hello, said he had never heard of either Kahua or Speedy Best being involved in the telecoms sector. These companies, he added, are likely “just covers for something else”.

According to the Hong Kong government’s business registry, Speedy Best was established in April 2007 with just 10,000 Hong Kong Dollars (US$1,282) in registered capital. The company’s listed director is Tsuyoshi Yamashita, a Japanese national.

Funcinpec has been wracked by internal divisions since the return to politics last year of former party leader Norodom Ranariddh, who now heads the Norodom Ranariddh Party.

Veera case: Ministry gets pardon requests

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Friday, 18 March 2011 09:55Vong Sokheng

Veera case

Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed yesterday that they had received letters seeking a pardon for two Thai nationalists sentenced last month to prison terms for espionage.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that letters seeking pardons for Thai Patriot Network coordinator Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary, Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, had been submitted to the ministry by the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

“The ministry has received the letters of the convicted Thais seeking amnesty, and we will evaluate the requests through legal channels with the Ministry of Justice,” Koy Kuong said.

He added that the letters would be forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for consideration by King Norodom Sihamoni.

Veera and Ratree were arrested last year for illegal entry into Cambodia and espionage charges after inspecting a border area claimed by Thailand in Sa Kaew province. They were sentenced on February 1 to eight-year and six-year prison terms respectively.

Villagers appeal over Sokimex dispute

Photo by: Pha Lina
Villagers from Kampong Speu’s Treng Trayeong district protest in front of Hun Sen’s house in Takhmao town yesterday.

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Friday, 18 March 2011 10:06Khouth Sophakchakrya

Sixty-six people representing 73 families from Kampong Speu province in a land dispute with petrol conglomerate Sokimex yesterday gathered at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s villa in Kandal province’s Takhmao town to ask for intervention after provincial officials prepared to evict them.

Mam Mao, a representative of families living in Treng Trayoeng commune’s Village 3 in Phnom Sruoch district, said yesterday that provincial authorities planned to remove their houses on March 25 and give their land to Sokimex representative Choem Savong.

“We arrived at Takhmao town on Wednesday to request for mercy and intervention from Samdech Hun Sen,” he said. “Samdech is our last hope.”

Mam Mao said that villagers had lived on the land since 1992 before a Sokimex representative filed a complaint against them in 2000, claiming that the land belonged to Sokimex.

Choem Dara, another representative of the villagers, said that a verdict was handed down against the villagers in January 2001, but villagers were not informed until April that year.

Choem Dara said that villagers sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice and a petition to the National Assembly after hearing the verdict and both bodies told them they could return to their homes.

“I think that authorities and Choem Savong colluded together to evict and grab 7,500 square metres of our residence land,” said Choem Dara.

Villager Lai Im said that the villagers would not return until they had received an intervention letter from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“If we go back now or with empty hands, the authorities will remove and demolish our houses,” said Lai Im.

“I heard that Sokimex owners have hundreds of thousands of hectares of land.”

Kampong Speu provincial prosecutor Kuth Sopheang said that a village representative lost the case in early 2001 after the court found that they had destroyed a fence to illegally live on the company’s land.

“On March 25 we will lead 172 relevant officials to implement the verdict to declare the return of the land to Sokimex,” he said.

“We hope that they will volunteer to move from the land by themselves.”

Sokimex representative Choem Savong could not reached for comment.

US official backs border meetings: FM

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Friday, 18 March 2011 10:13Vong Sokheng

Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that a visiting United States Department of State official expressed US support for brokered talks with Thailand over recent hostilities along the two countries’ shared border.

Joseph Yun, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, met yesterday with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to discuss a range of issues including US humanitarian aid and ongoing border tensions with Thailand, Koy Kuong said.

“The deputy assistant secretary said that the US supported Indonesia’s proposed role as observers as well as ASEAN involvement in resolving the border dispute,” Koy Kuong said.

“He said that both Cambodia and Thailand are friends of the US, and therefore the US supports previous and ongoing talks.”

Koy Kuong said Wednesday that a meeting of the General Border and Joint Border committees scheduled for March 23-25 in Bogor, Indonesia, would be delayed until April 7-8 because of scheduling conflicts.

The meetings were proposed by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalagawa in order to ease border tensions following violent clashes last month that left at least 10 dead and dozens injured on both sides.

Koy Kuong said yesterday that Thailand has yet to formally announce their intention to participate in the talks, though Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted last week by the Bangkok Post as saying that the talks were a starting point for easing tensions.

He added that the border dispute has been exacerbated by a failure by Thailand to accept a common frame of reference for discussions about the border.

“The complication is that Thailand has continued to use a map that is not recognised by the international community,” Koy Kuong said.

Prime Minster Hun Sen on Monday appealed to Indonesia to send unarmed military observers to the Cambodian side of the border to safeguard a permanent ceasefire.

Thailand has yet to accept the formal terms of reference for the observers.

Lon Nol debt debated

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Friday, 18 March 2011 10:20Vong Sokheng

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met yesterday with a senior American diplomat to resume negotiations on the Kingdom’s Lon Nol-era debt, a long-time sticking point between the two countries that Prime Minister Hun Sen described last year as a “dirty debt”.

The visit by Joseph Yun, the United States deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, follows a pledge to address the issue made by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton during her trip to the Kingdom last year.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Hor Namhong had requested that the US drop the interest rate on the Kingdom’s US$445 million debt from 3 percent to 1 percent annually, and to allow 70 percent of the sum to be redirected to development projects.

“We have to find a point that can be agreed upon by all so that the process can move ahead,” Koy Kuong said, adding that Yun “agreed that the negotiations between Cambodia and the US will continue until we have an agreement”.

Clinton said in November that the debt required “immediate attention”, and that she would move the issue “up the ladder of priorities” for Washington. At the time, she, too suggested that some of the debt could be re-routed to development assistance.

“You could have some repayment, you could have debt for nature, you could have debt for education,” she said. “There are things that the government of Cambodia could do that would satisfy the need to demonstrate some level of accountability but, more importantly, to invest those funds in the needs of the people of Cambodia.”

Cambodian officials have long called for the debt to be cancelled in view of the disastrous effects of the American bombing campaign conducted during Lon Nol’s time on office. In a speech in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen called the sum a “dirty debt” that was used to fund bombs “dropped on our heads”.

The US dropped 2,756,941 tons of ordnance in Cambodia during the period, according to historians Ben Kiernan and Owen Taylor, at a cost some have estimated at $7 billion.

Yun was unavailable for comment, though American embassy spokesman Mark Wenig said in an email that the US hoped to see an agreement “soon” on what he called “a longstanding bilateral issue”.

“Such an agreement would enhance Cambodia’s creditworthiness and ability to access international capital markets,” Wenig said. “Under international law, governments are generally responsible for the obligations of their predecessors.”

The Kingdom’s overall debt was estimated at US$3.2 billion as of 2009, according to the International Monetary Fund.